FlixChatter Review: Wonder Woman (2017)

I started writing this review just a day after seeing it. It has become a rarity for me to be able to write reviews so soon after I saw it but I felt… compelled, yeah that’s the right word, to get my thoughts out as the film opens. Thankfully the embargo ends Wednesday night!

I’m not going to lie. Like many people who care and support gender equality in Hollywood and want female filmmakers, or just women in film in general, to succeed. We all want Wonder Woman to succeed. It’s no hyperbole that much is riding on this film, even if it’s not exactly the first big-budget superhero film, though really we should perhaps forget those who came before this because well, let’s face it, they’re not any good. No doubt there’s an unfair amount of pressure put on director Patty Jenkins, whose last film Monster, was 13 years ago. (Wow, seriously?? I had to double check on IMDb on that fact).

There’s also a sizable amount of pressure on relatively unknown Gal Gadot. I have to admit, I wasn’t crazy with her casting initially. But like my qualms with Daniel Craig as Bond, it was quickly squashed when I first saw the first trailer. I was immediately on board with Gadot’s portrayal. The fact that she was part of the Israeli army, no doubt she looked the part. But more than sheer athleticism, she is also extremely charismatic and has such a genuine ‘goodness’ the way Christopher Reeve was as  the first cinematic Superman. It’s perhaps no surprise that the scene of Diana saving Steve in a London alley is reminiscent of Clark saving Lois in a NYC alley in Superman The Movie.

Superhero films can live and die by casting… it is extremely crucial that we believe in the person playing the role. Gal Gadot absolutely rocks as the mighty Wonder Woman as well as the sweet and compassionate Diana. More so than her two fellow DC boys Ben Affleck as Batman and Henry Cavill as Superman combined. That’s why she’s the best thing about Batman V Superman despite her less-than-10-minutes running time. She’s also got a pretty effortless comic timing that works in the film’s many lighter touches. Plus she’s got such an earnest quality that made lines such as ‘I can not stand by while innocent lives are lost!’ works, instead of coming off lame or corny.

It’s superb casting all around. The Amazonian women. Diana’s mother Hippolyta is played with such grace by Connie Nielsen (I so miss her since Gladiator) and Robin Wright as Diana’s aunt Antiope is in phenomenally bad-ass form here (man she deserves her own superhero franchise!) I truly enjoyed the scenes in the paradise island Themyscira. The production design in Greece is absolutely beautiful, I’d love to see more scenes set here perhaps in the sequels? I also love the first big action scene on the island between the Amazonians and the German army set in WWI. It was so much fun to watch these fierce women looking amazingly cool in various acrobatics… on a horse, leaping in the air, etc. I would rewind that scene over and over when I get the Blu-ray!

Now, I’m not saying I love every action scene in this movie. In fact, I gotta say the slo-mo stuff gets overwhelming after a while as the movie goes on. Towards the end the pyrotechnics of the final battle dull my senses, though nowhere near as bad as all the bombastic blasts at the end of Man of Steel. I quite like the music though, and I’m glad they use the main theme by Hanz Zimmer and Junkie XL sparingly to make a real impact.

As for the villains, I’m not too fond of Danny Huston’s rather over-the-top performance and he’s basically forgettable. SPOILER ALERT [highlight text to read] I don’t think it’s that huge of a surprise that Ares God of War takes the form of a British cabinet member (David Thewlis), I didn’t think that part and the subsequent battle between him and Diana are all that interesting.

In any case, there are plenty to like in this movie that offset my quibbles. The always-watchable Chris Pine is charming and sweet as Steve Trevor, Diana’s love interest. He’s got that rogue-but-sensitive sensibilities down pat, and his attempt at a German accent is hilarious! Plus he’s nice eye candy and we got to see quite a lot of him in a particular scene, ehm. The tentative romance is handled well, akin to Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter in Captain America movies in that you immediately want them to be together.

Right from the trailer, I also love his secretary, played with such glee by Lucy Davis. My only complaint is that she’s not on screen enough. The rest of Diana’s earth-bound rag tag team are a hoot as well, played by Saïd TaghmaouiEwen Bremner and Eugene Brave Rock.

I enjoyed the fact that the movie isn’t as dark as previous DC installments but it’s also not all fluff and style over substance. There’s an emotional scene between Diana and her mother as they part ways, and Diana’s compassion and heartbreak at seeing people injured from the war is palpable. That’s what makes the first earthly action scene, Wonder Woman vs the German Army, is so powerful to watch. She’s driven by compassion and love for humanity, and she doesn’t have a chip on her shoulder like many of her male superhero counterparts.

Overall it’s a terrific start to what I hope will launch more and more female-led comic-book films. For me, any female-led films is a great thing in my book, regardless of genre. It helps to actually have an actual comic book writer, Allan Heinberg, amongst a team of writers that also include Zack Snyder. But mainly, kudos to Patty Jenkins for being a capable captain of the ship and Gal Gadot for portraying a symbol of female empowerment with such strength and grace. It’s not just the best DCEU film so far, it’s a solid and hugely entertaining film, period.


So have you seen WONDER WOMAN? Well, I’d love to hear what you think!

Everybody’s Chattin’ + Trailer Spotlight: WONDER WOMAN (trailer 3)


Hi everyone! Hope all is well in your part of the world. Well I don’t have to tell you that my life’s been practically consumed by my short film now. As they say, writing is pretty much rewriting and that’s where it’s at now… constant script revisions. It’s a very exhausting, humbling and also fruitful learning experience for me. But believe it or not, that’s not the worst part of it so far… scheduling is definitely a bloody nasty process!

So pardon me if I haven’t been around your blog lately, heck I haven’t even been around MY own blog. But I do miss doing these community links… so let’s get to it!

Margaret participated on the Unsung Heroes Blogathon. Of course it’s one of Ed Harris‘ movies 😉

Let’s take some time from movies to gaze at Cindy‘s stunning shots of full moon over Sycamore Canyon, AZ

Jordan reviewed an Italian film Perfetti Sconosciuti (Perfect Strangers)

Meanwhile Allie just reviewed a book, Truly Madly Guilty. I actually haven’t done a book review before, not sure I’m cut out for that. I think I’ll stick to movies.

As I’m about to write my quick thoughts on LOGAN, glad my friend Mark loves it as much as I do!

On the other hand, glad I’m not the only one who isn’t so ga-ga over La La Land. Eddie didn’t fall head over heels with it either.

I love Michael‘s Best Album Covers series, this time he shone the spotlight on trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s album Hub-Tones

Speaking of music… Chris has been listing his Top 100 songs of 2016. Check out if one of your faves made his list.


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Ahhh yes… wonder indeed!! I have posted about Wonder Woman here which was around Comic-con last year. Man I can’t be more excited for this movie. It’s one of the rare DC movies I’m actually super looking forward to.

Behold…

Woof, this gives me goosebumps! I love that first part of the Amazon princess Diana in warrior training. Gal Gadot IS Wonder Woman! I actually had trepidation about her casting initially, but just like Daniel Craig w/ Bond, I’m definitely sold as soon as I saw the first teaser!! Interestingly enough she actually auditioned to be a Bond girl in Quantum of Solace, heh I’d love to see her play a female spy, and the fact that she was in the Israeli Army, she likely could kick any of those Bond actors’ arses effortlessly 😉

I like this alley scene, definitely reminds me of a scene in Superman: The Movie, the first time Clark Kent saves Lois Lane from a bullet in an alley, complete with Diana wearing dark rimmed glasses too!

Nice to see Connie Nielsen back on screen again as Diana’s mom Hippolyta. Oh and Princess Buttercup er Robin Wright as an Amazon warrior? Yes please! Chris Pine is instantly likable as her love interest, glad he took on a second-banana role despite being one of Hollywood’s hottest leading men. But mostly I’m thrilled because we have a woman behind the camera this time! That in itself is history in the making, Patty Jenkins is the first woman to have directed a live-action movie with a $100 million budget.

I sure hope this movie will be a huge success… I mean dayum, DC sure needs a hit right about now. As for me, I’m hugely optimistic… heck this scene alone looks darn epic!!!

I still gets goosebumps when the Wonder Woman theme came on… thanks to Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL. I love that they use it sparingly for the finale, which made it all the more impactful.

 


What do you think of the the third Wonder Woman trailer? 

Weekend Roundup: FlixChatter on BTR radio & Trailer highlights from SDCC – Wonder Woman, King Arthur & Brie Larson as Captain Marvel

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Happy Sunday everybody!

How’s your weekend? Mine is quite a busy one. I went to see Star Trek Beyond Friday night (review coming soon) and spent most of the day at the grand opening of the new Vikings stadium (US BANK stadium) in downtown Minneapolis.

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Hey I’m on the radio! 😀

Earlier this month I had a chat with BreakThrough (BTR) Radio host Taia Handlin who runs the Biology of the Blog podcast. It was an honor & privilege to talk about the origins of my blog and my passion for movies in general. So hope you take a listen…


comiccon_logoOk, I thought I’d post about a few highlights from San Diego Comic-Con this weekend. I can’t believe it’s been five years since I was at SDCC! I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get tickets to go there, nor do I have the energy to wait in line for hours again. Well I’ll always have the fun memory of being in Hall H!

I was pretty much blissfully ignorant to all the updates most of the weekend until late Saturday night when I watched some of the trailers.

Well, the two I posted here are two of the movies I most look forward to in 2017. I actually saw the Justice League trailer first but honestly it doesn’t change my mind from my ‘meh’ sentiment about it. It looks humorous but given Zack Snyder directing, can’t say I’m optimistic.

THIS trailer however, still gets me excited!

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Gal Gadot‘s Wonder Woman is one of the few best thing about Batman V Superman, and goodness it’s about time we see a feature film showcasing a bad-ass female superhero!!

Yes I realize that despite having a female director Patty Jenkins at the helm, we’ve got four male writers (including Zack Snyder, yikes!) But I’m hoping they’d do the Amazon princess’ story justice. I LOVE that the film is a period piece set in 1920s, and this is an origin story I don’t mind seeing. We’ve got a glimpse of Themyscria, home of the Amazons. Oh and Chris Pine as the human boyfriend… interesting that the trailer debuts the same weekend as Star Trek Beyond.


Nice to see Connie Nielsen as Diana’s mother, been too long since she had a prominent role since Gladiator. Oh and speaking of bad ass women, Robin Wright as an Amazonian army general, yes please! The trailer ends in a comedic note, which I take it as a good thing as superhero movies ought to have a sense of humor.


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I know it’s all about superhero and comic-book movies at SDCC, but I’ve been looking forward to Guy Ritchie‘s take on the often-told King Arthur adaptation. Well, this medieval king is more ‘street’ than any other ones we’ve seen before and y’know what, I think it looks like fun! This is a mythological figure that’s been done to death on screen, so I welcome an unconventional, edgier version. I gotta say I like the casting of Charlie Hunnam in the lead role, too.


One of the biggest announcements out of #MarvelSDCC has got to be THIS:

I have no clue who Captain Marvel is, but another female superhero? That’s always a good thing in my book and I think the lovely Brie is a fine choice! It seems Marvel is a bit behind in making a female heroine movie this time as DC’s already got Wonder Woman ready for battle next Summer. I thought that they’d spun-off Black Widow by now, alas…

The lovely Lupita Nyong’O tweeted this from SDCC… so much awesomeness in a single photo!

 


Well that’s my weekend recap folks. Thoughts on SDCC or anything you watched this weekend?

Philip Seymour Hoffman Blogathon – A Most Wanted Man (2014) review

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This review is part of Epileptic Moondancer’s PSH blogathon. I selected the second last completed movie by Hoffman before his death. He died a week after the premiere of the film at the Sundance Film Festival.

A Most Wanted Man

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A Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught in the international war on terror.

It seems that spy movies in Hollywood often fall into two camps, the high-octane action thrillers a la James Bond and Jason Bourne, or the slow-burn, analytical style you’d find in John le Carré‘s work. This one falls into the latter, and I feel that one must have a certain patience to fully appreciate these kind of slow-burn film. The last film based on le Carré’s work I saw was Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The main draw for me to see that one was Gary Oldman. Similarly, I was drawn to see this for the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in the lead role. It’s set in the city of Hamburg, Germany, where my late mother went to college for a couple of years.

The film opens with a mysterious hooded man sneaking into the city whom we later learn is a half-Chechen, half-Russian refugee, Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin). An espionage team led by Günther Bachmann (Hoffman) suspects from Russian intelligence that Issa is a potentially dangerous terrorist. There’s also a matter of a Muslim philanthropist the team is monitoring as there’s reasons to believe he might be funneling funds to terrorist activities.

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Honestly, the way the plot unfolds is pretty slow and I had to turn on the caption. It’s something I wish I could’ve done when I was watching ‘Tinker Tailor‘ on the big screen as the plot was pretty complex for my little brain to discern. But what’s fascinating to me is how the whole spying thing seems rather uneventful. For the most part, it’s a lot of eavesdropping, observing, and a whole lot of talking. No shootouts, foot/car/boat chase or physical fighting for a good chunk of the film. The protagonist Günther isn’t exactly built for THAT kind of action, though he did punch a guy for being abrasive to a woman at a bar, but that’s about it. Yet the story was still quite engrossing and it kept me curious to find out just who this Issa guy is. One of the main reasons is Hoffman’s acting.

It still pains me to realize he’s gone. He was such a skilled thespian who could *disappear* into his roles. Here he totally became the character — a chain-smoking, world-weary, astute, yet compassionate intelligence agent, complete with a believable German accent. Even his voice sounded different, slightly lower than I usually hear him speak, and he managed not to overdo the accent that might resort to simply an impersonation. It’s a testament to his charisma as an actor that I enjoyed watching him do mundane office stuff or simply conversing with people.

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McAdams with Dobrygin

As I mentioned above, this film doesn’t paint a glamorous life of a spy. It’s a grounded, more realistic look at the business of espionage where everyone has secrets and it’s all about maneuvering through shrewd, calculating and duplicitous people so you don’t fall into their trap. Apparently John le Carré was a member of British Intelligence at some point, so the plot definitely rang true. I have to admit I had to really pay attention and try not to miss any details. It was rewarding as you became invested in the journey, though the ending was quite a frustrating one. Not that it was badly-written, but it’s more about me expecting a hopeful ending that’s tied neatly with a bow. Well, if you don’t like endings that get you all riled up, this is not a movie for you.

This marks the first Anton Corbijn film I saw, but looking at his filmography, the Dutch filmmaker seems to specialize in slow-burn, measured thrillers (Control, The American). So I guess he’s the perfect director to adapt le Carré’s work. He assembled a pretty solid supporting cast here, starting with the always watchable Robin Wright. She had a key role as an American diplomatic attaché who also took a keen interest in both of Günther’s cases. I enjoyed watching two excellent character actors bantering and outsmarting each other. As a German banker, Willem Dafoe played quite an understated role here, which kinda messed with my head a bit as I kept expecting him to do something totally bonkers.

I was quite impressed by Russian actor Dobrygin in his English-language debut. I actually thought he was a UK actor as he has one of those familiar faces. It’s key for his role to keep the audience guessing whether he’s a good or bad guy and he certainly pulled that off. He kept us at a distance but somehow able to garner our sympathy. I hope to see more of his work so hopefully Hollywood would cast him in more English-speaking roles. As for Rachel McAdams, though she did her best, somehow I didn’t quite buy her in this role. I guess I pictured someone with a bit more edge as an immigration lawyer, someone like Noomi Rapace perhaps? 

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As the film gives us a glimpse into the bureaucracy and intricacy of espionage, it’s apparent that it’s a world full of gray and not much black/white. “To Make the World a Safer Place” is a line uttered in a couple of key scenes by two different characters. It may sound like a simplistic, even clichéd line, but the second time I heard it, I realized the significance of it and what it was intended to be. This film astutely illustrates that in the world of secret intelligence, nothing is ever what it seems to be.

This film is not for everyone as the deliberately slow pace might be considered boring to some. I can’t lie that there are times I feel it’s perhaps too slow-moving, though the quiet moments are still charged with suspense as the stakes get higher and higher. The stunning cinematography, especially the night shots, give a foreboding, atmospheric feel that help immerse you into this world of intrigue. The thematic elements and relevant subject matter definitely stay with you after the end credits. I highly recommend this for fans of slow-burn espionage films, but even if you’re not, it’s still well worth a watch just for Mr. Hoffman’s electrifying performance.

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Have you seen A Most Wanted Man? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: The Congress (2013)

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An aging, out-of-work actress accepts one last job, though the consequences of her decision affect her in ways she didn’t consider.

I’ve been wanting to check this movie out of sheer curiosity. The idea of mixing animation with live-action is tricky, and I always wonder how a filmmaker would pull this off. This is from the same filmmaker who brought the Oscar-nominated Waltz with Bashir, Ari Folman, and I must say The Congress is an ambitious and absolutely bizarre film. Whether or not the film works for you depends on how much the eccentricities bothers you, plus the structure of the film is also not straightforward to make it digestible. But the way I see it, I’m glad I saw it and the thing with certain art form is, one can still appreciate it even if we don’t fully comprehend it.

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The story is loosely based on Stanislaw Lem’s sci-fi novel The Futurological Congress. In the film, Robin Wright plays a fictionalized version of herself as an aging actress and single mother of two, and her son’s hearing and eyesight are slowly deteriorating. A Hollywood mogul from Miramount (Miramax & Paramount) offered to buy the film rights of her digital image so in the future studios could make films using only CGI versions of her, provided that she’d never act again anywhere.

It’s twenty years later when her contract’s about to expire that the animated adventure came alive. At the entrance of Abrahama City, where Robin is to attend Miramount’s “Futurological Congress,” she’s given a chemical so she transform into an avatar of herself in order to enter the strict animated zone. Trippy is the word I would use here and I can’t even begin to explain what the plot is about.

TheCongressStill3In fact, when the movie’s over, I thought ‘what the heck was it that I just watched??’ Part of the film seems to be a commentary or satire on the mercenary nature of Hollywood, but other times it’s a mother-son story, and then there’s a love story between Robin and Dylan (voiced by Jon Hamm), who claims to be her animator. It’s hard to tell what it’s about, it’s really quite discombobulating as things get more colorful and more surreal. You’ll notice a bunch of famous people in the animated world, from deity, famous entertainers, sports figures, etc.

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The fact that the film somehow still retains my interest is Wright’s heartfelt performance, even in her animated format she’s always engaging and sympathetic. The supporting cast are excellent too, Harvey Keitel as Robin’s agent, Kodi Smit-McPhee as her son, and Danny Huston as the studio mogul. The most emotionally engaging moments are between Robin and Paul Giamatti who plays the kind doctor who treats her son.

The altered sense of realism is to be expected in a live-action/animation hybrid format, but messy structure of the film highlights the narrative problems. I kind of knew going in this film would not be an easy watch however, but still it can be frustrating. I think some people would have serious issues with the film, much like they would with say, Holy Motors, and I can’t say I blame them. But there are some enjoyable and funny moments, I always appreciate originality even if it’s a little on the bizarre side. I’d love to connect more with it and the characters, but overall it’s got enough going for it to warrant a recommendation from me.

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Have you seen this film? Well, what do you think?